Colombia: Growing numbers of displaced in north east
25-08-2006 News Release 06/51
Violent clashes between the parties to the conflict, threats to the civilian population and the death of two community leaders has caused dozens of families to flee their homes in north-eastern Colombia.
Until July, the ICRC's office in Saravena (Arauca Department), was assisting an average of three families per month. In August, that figure swelled at an alarming rate, with 450 people (90 families) requesting emergency aid. Another 250 people (50 families) are to receive assistance in the coming days. Altogether, 700 people took refuge in Saravena in August.
The situation is no better in other cities in the department, such as Tame and Fortul, where the ICRC provided aid on 18 August for some 800 people (158 families) who appealed for help after fleeing the fighting.
" My parents stayed in the countryside, " said 16-year-old Jefferson Cáceres.* " They're old and they say that no one can force them to leave their land. But they sent my brother, who is 12 years old, and me to stay with an aunt because it was too dangerous for us. Now we're waiting to see what happens. If things calm down, we'll go home. If not, we'll stay here. "
For Rosalía Torres,* aged 51, life has become a nightmare: " I've been living in this area for 15 years and was naturally aware of the conflict. But things never got this bad before. I'm far from my friends and I don't know where my husband is. He left the house a week ago and we haven't heard from him since. I had to flee with my two children. I have no idea where he is, no one can tell me. I don't know what to do or where to go. "
In August, the ICRC assisted over 1,500 displaced people like Jefferson and Rosalía throughout Arauca Department.
Around El Catacumbo (Norte de Santander Department), the situatio n is also serious. Some 130 people (32 families) from the villages of El Diamante, El Reposo (municipality of Las Mercedes) and La Victoria have fled to the city of Sardinata. They are desperately hoping to return home before they lose everything they own.
In the past three weeks, the ICRC has delivered food, mats, blankets, hygiene kits and kitchen sets to families who are staying in these cities until the security situation improves. Over the entire month, it has provided assistance for 1,630 displaced people in various parts of the country. It has also assisted 297 displaced people (84 families) together with the Colombian Red Cross as part of a joint relief programme in Bucaramanga.
Teams from the ICRC sub-delegation in Bucaramanga (Santander Department) and the ICRC offices in Cúcuta (Norte de Santander Department) and Saravena are keeping a close watch over the displaced families and the rest of the civilian population in this region of Colombia.
* Not their real names
For further information, please contact:
Carlos Ríos, ICRC, Bogotá, tel: + 571 313 86 30 or + 57 311 491 07 75
Annick Bouvier, ICRC, Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 24 58 or + 41 79 217 32 24